Teenage girl in Mudon Township sees rapist brought to justice months after 25-year-old perpetrator tried to silence her with compensation

February 12, 2019

HURFOM: On February 2nd 2019, Ko M—, a 25-year-old man from Kamarwat Town, Mudon Township, Mon State, was charged with the rape of a 15-year-old girl after the Chair of the Mon State Future Light Organization, Daw Ther Htar Lwin, brought the incident to the attention of Kamarwat police.

Although the perpetrator and victim were neighbors, Ko M— first came into contact with the girl through social media in April 2018, and the two kept in regular communication thereafter. According to the victim, on the day of the incident she had gone to her grandmother’s farm to harvest vegetables but was unknowingly followed by Ko M—, yet it remains unclear how he knew of the girl’s whereabouts. Once she arrived, Ko M— proceeded to rape her in an isolated area of the farm.

The girl soon discovered that Ko M— had impregnated her, which prompted the girl’s grandmother to ask Ko M— that he marry her granddaughter. Ko M— refused any such request, claiming that he was not the father of the child.

Although the girl’s family wished to seek justice, threats of violence from Ko M—’s family, and a Mon-Burmese language barrier between the girl’s family and authorities combined to discourage the girl’s family from reporting the rape to Kamarwat police.

In an effort to absolve himself of any wrongdoing and bring to rest any further accusations of rape, on November 7th 2018, the girl and her grandmother signed a letter of mutual agreement with Ko M— in exchange for 500,000 kyat (US $325.31). The agreement was signed at their local General Administration Department (GAD) office in the presence of the 100 households head and the ward administrator, wherein it was stated that Ko M— was neither the perpetrator of the crime nor the child’s father.

However, with the visit of the Daw Thet Htar Lwin, Chair of the Mon State Future Light Organization to Kamarwat Hospital, the search for justice was renewed.

After arriving at Kamarwat Hospital to observe progress on Future Light’s orphan project, I was approached by a midwife and the girl. The girl told me that once she gave birth, she hoped to put her child up for adoption. When I asked why, the midwife informed me that the child’s father refused to marry the girl and refused to acknowledge that the child was his,” said Daw Thet Htar Lwin.

Wanting to know more, Daw Thet Htar Lwin met with the girl’s grandmother who relayed that Ko M— had raped the girl, and that Ko M—’s family now claimed that the child is not his and that her granddaughter is mentally unstable. Daw Thet Htar Lwin also learned that Ko M—’s family threatened to kill the girl and her grandmother if they filed a police report.

With this information in hand, on February 2nd 2019, Daw Thet Htar Lwin notified Kamarwat police of the incident. The Kamarwat police detained Ko M—, charging him under Penal Code 376 (Punishment for rape).

According to the Deputy Chief Officer of the Mudon General Administration Department, U Kyaw Zin Oo, charges will also be filed against the ward administrator if it is found that he authorized financial compensation to the victim as settlement in this case.

The Mon State Police Office state that 80 cases of rape were reported in 2018, 57 of which (71.25%) involved the rape of a child.

As documented by HURFOM’s Women and Child Rights Project in A Girl’s Life Was Destroyed, between June 2017 and July 2018, 14 cases of sexual violence against children were reported in Mon State. Still, it must be understood that the numbers reported by HURFOM and the Mon State police necessarily underrepresent the true scale of sexual violence against children given that many children are too young to understand and articulate such experiences, and that the stigma associated with sexual violence operates to discourage victims from coming forward.

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